Community “living room” and food hub designed by SOM and TnS Studio is coming to Chicago’s South Side

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Community “living room” and food hub designed by SOM and TnS Studio is coming to Chicago’s South Side

Rendering of first-phase development at Englewood Connect, part of Chicago’s INVEST South/West initiative. (SOM)

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has announced that it will colead the design of a community gathering place/small business incubator/“eco-food hub” in Englewood, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. TnS Studio, a self-described “Black-owned, Woman-powered” Chicago architecture firm headed by Taylor Staten and Courtney Harris, will spearhead the design of the space—dubbed Englewood Connect—alongside SOM as part of a larger project team that includes McLaurin Development Partners and Farpoint Development.

Winning out over three other development teams, the Englewood Connect team was selected by the City of Chicago to realize its mixed-use project as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $750 million pedestrian-oriented INVEST South/West community improvement initiative that sets out to bring positive, transformative change to Chicago’s most underserved and overlooked neighborhoods. Last August, Lightfoot’s office issued its first three requests for proposals (RFPs) for INVEST South/West-identified development sites in Englewood along with the Auburn Gresham and Austin neighborhoods. The Englewood site, located along the 800 block of West 63rd Parkway, is split into two sections spread across just over 4 acres. Entailing both new construction and the adaptive reuse of a historic community firehouse dating back to 1929, the phased Englewood Connect project will, according to a SOM press release, “expand upon recent neighborhood investments to create a local commerce and culinary ecosystem, greater connectivity and pedestrian access, and flexible public spaces.”

interior rendering of a public "living room"
The Englewood Living Room (SOM)

“We envision a dynamic mix of community spaces, accessible to all local residents and connected to the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Dawveed Scully, urban planning associate director at SOM, in a statement. “With flexible spaces that can be used year-round, our plan creates an ecosystem that cultivates upward mobility anchored by entrepreneurialism.”

Englewood Connect will be realized as the second phase of the larger, Whole Foods Market–anchored Englewood Square retail development scheme.

As detailed by SOM, the Englewood Connect campus will center around a multifaceted public plaza dubbed Green Street Commons while another major element, the Englewood Living Room, will be a pavilion with operable doors and windows that will serve as an all-weather space for exhibitions, coworking spaces, public markets, and “places for the community to gather and engage with one another” per SOM.  The aforementioned historic firehouse—the old, disused CFD Engine Co. 84, Truck 51 at 62nd and Green Streets—will be restored and converted into a “multi-purpose venue tailored to the community’s needs.” According to a statement released by the mayor’s office, the revamped fire station is set to include, among other things, a commercial kitchen and an entrepreneurial hub.

a pavilion with public open space
The Green Street Commons at Englewood Connect (SOM)

The Englewood Connect design and development team will work extensively with local businesses and nonprofits, students, and artists to foster a dynamic program for the campus “informed by Englewood’s identity, and designed to serve the community’s changing needs” according to SOM.

Lending expertise and insight to the Englewood Connect team are chef David Blackmon, dbHMS, Rubinos & Mesia Engineers, Omni Ecosystems, Engage Civil, Environmental Design International, Gwen Grossman Lighting Design, Bowa Construction, and Neal & Leroy.

The $10.3 million project is expected to generate 80 new construction jobs and 45 full-time positions once the nourishment and entrepreneurialism–focused Englewood Connect project is up and running according to the city. The other two winning INVEST South/West proposals announced earlier this week are Austin United Alliance (Austin, 5200 West Chicago Avenue) and Evergreen Imagine JV (Auburn Gresham, 838 West 79th Street).

illustration of people interacting within the interior of a pavilion structure
Englewood’s historic firehouse, depicted in the background, will be renovated and play a key roll in the community-focused development scheme. (SOM)

“Initiatives such as INVEST South/West are critical in advancing our goal to enhance the socioeconomic vibrancy of our historic South and West Sides,” Lightfoot said. “Each of these winning proposals will contribute to this goal by giving residents access to new and exciting cultural, affordable housing, employment resources. I look forward to seeing these projects come to life and supporting other INVEST South/West projects just like them in the near future.”

The second round of INVEST South/West RFPs is now open through March 30 with the four targeted communities being Bronzeville, the Back of the Yards neighborhood in New City, North Lawndale, and South Chicago. A future third round will include Humboldt Park, Roseland/Pullman, and South Shore.